Wednesday, July 16, 2014  SUBSCRIBE   
 
MSU Summer Extravaganza comes to Jackson
The Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter of the Mississippi State University Alumni Association will host its annual Summer Extravaganza July 17 at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. In its 37th year, this popular fan event brings Bulldog faithful from around the state for a mid-summer celebration of all things Mississippi State. The public event features a host of vendors, athlete and coach meet-and-greets and remarks from university officials, among other activities. SU President Mark E. Keenum, athletic director Scott Stricklin and head football coach Dan Mullen will headline the formal program that beings at 7 p.m.
 
'Heart Behind the Music' Concert at MSU Riley Center Delights Fans
It was a great night for entertainment in downtown Meridian on Tuesday. The MSU Riley Center hosted "The Heart Behind the Music" concert, featuring several country greats. Billy Dean, Deana Carter, Collin Raye and Bryan White took the stage to a crowded theater and played fan favorites as well as new songs. Carter was fascinated with the Riley Center. "It's rare for us to get to play in a place like this, that has the history, that they've kept authentic," Carter said. The big events continue at the MSU Riley Center. Officials will announce the fall and winter concert lineup this Thursday.
 
They're everywhere! Armyworms chomping through Mississippi crops
Armywormageddon: That's the term Angus Catchot has coined this year for what he says is "by far been the biggest armyworm invasion we've ever seen in the Mid-South." And the worm influx isn't crop specific, he said at the joint annual meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Policy Committee. There is one difference for this year's invasion, says Catchot, who is Extension entomology professor at Mississippi State University. "I'm no longer taking for granted that armyworms won't hurt Bollgard II cotton," Catchot says.
 
Record cattle, hog prices leave producers with hard decisions
Cattle and hog prices are soaring to record highs, causing producers to debate whether to sell their valuable animals or expand their herd sizes for the future. "It's hard not to sell when prices are this good and the pull of the feedlot is so strong," said John Michael Riley, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. As producers continue to reduce herd sizes nationally, prices should remain strong, but the result will be fewer animals available to sell in the future.
 
Starkville Police Department getting room to grow
The Starkville Police Department is one step closer to a new facility. The Starkville Board of Alderman approved a letter of intent Tuesday evening to acquire the Cadence Bank in downtown Starkville for the city's police force. Chief Administrative Office Taylor Adams says the city will spend the next four months working toward negotiating a contract and then a closing date on the building.
 
Museum in Mississippi offers laughter, surprises
Within a few steps of the Mississippi Children's Museum, there are squeals of laughter and excitement. Inside the interactive, 40,000-square-foot facility, children are encouraged to read, learn about health and nutrition and the state's key industries. One exhibit at the Jackson museum includes a Nissan Altima chassis that lets children closely explore the inner workings of the car, which is built in Mississippi. There are also hands-on exhibits for construction, timber management and oil exploration. The newest exhibit, the Literacy Garden, lets children try drawing or writing a story on a creativity wall.
 
America's Smokers: Still 40 Million Strong
The U.S. adult smoking rate has plunged to below 20% from more than 40% half a century ago. Increasingly, smokers are poorer and less educated. And many smokers call themselves "occasional" or social smokers, consciously reining themselves in to try to avoid getting hooked. Kentucky, a major tobacco producer, had the highest smoking rate in the country last year at 30.2%, followed by West Virginia and Mississippi, according to a Gallup poll. In Vicksburg, Miss., 34-year-old restaurant worker Felicia James says she has been smoking for 20 years and doesn't feel out of place. "It's like everybody smokes,'' said Ms. James, who smokes Newport menthols. Something else that hasn't changed despite years of state and federal excise tax increases: the lower the income, the higher the smoking rate.
 
Minimum Wage Increase Could Raise Thousands Out of Poverty, Study Says
More than 250,000 of the one million working Mississippians would see an increase in their paychecks if the nation's minimum wage is raised to $10.10 per hour. That's according to a report released by Oxfam America, an organization purposed with ending poverty internationally. But not everyone believes it would be in the best interest of the state's economy. While the wage hike could help a large number of Mississippians, it could also put some out of work. State economist Darrin Webb says research conducted by his office shows that if the minimum wage were increased more than 9,000 Mississippians could be out of a job.
 
Cochran says he will appear at the Fair
Sen. Thad Cochran will appear at the Neshoba County Fair on Thursday unless the U.S. Senate is still in session, Jordan Russell, his campaign communications director, said on Monday. Cochran, fresh off a heated primary campaign, is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 31 under the pavilion on Founders Square. "Unless Senate business keeps him away or something else changes, he will be there," said Russell. "We are looking forward to the Fair." Cochran's challenger, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, the Democratic nominee for U. S. Senate, will speak before Cochran at 10:20 a.m. Childers is a former First District Congressman. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of the Third District will not be able to attend to the Fair this year, Press Secretary Jordan See said. "The Congressional calendar overlaps the Fair. So, Congressman Harper will be in session," See said.
 
Cochran's appropriations subcommittee restores $800M funding for Ingalls-built ship
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill fits within budget constraints while fortifying the nation's long-term security interests, including approval of $800 million for procurement of a 12th LPD class amphibious warship expected to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, on Tuesday supported subcommittee approval of the defense spending bill. The measure is scheduled to be considered on Thursday by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
 
Stennis associate director analyzes Senate runoff votes
When the results came in for Mississippi's Republican primary runoff between incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran and State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), some celebrated, some raised questions, and Dallas Breen was making maps. Breen, associate director of Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, compared vote totals by county in the runoff against the same totals in the primary election. Using this comparison, he built several variations on a map of Mississippi. (Subscriber-only content.)
 
Cochran camp claims few questionable ballots
Not surprisingly, the campaigns of incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel differ substantially on the number of questionable ballots cast in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. Cochran, who won the election by 7,667 votes, or about 2 percentage points, maintains that an extensive examination of the election data from 79 of the 82 ballots has found about 910 votes "that could be questioned out of over 382,000 votes cast statewide." On Tuesday, Pete Perry, chairman of the Hinds County Republican Party, held a news conference in the Hinds County Courthouse where he said between 300 and 350 potentially questionable ballots had been found in Hinds by the two campaigns during the examination of election data.
 
Hinds GOP chair disputes McDaniel on illegal votes
The Hinds County Republican Party chairman said Tuesday that 300 to 350 possible illegally cast votes were found in Mississippi's largest county in the Senate runoff between incumbent Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel. That total is significantly lower than McDaniel's assertion that at least 1,500 improper votes were found in Hinds County. "I guess inflation occurs in campaigns with numbers just as it does with egos," said chairman Pete Perry.
 
Perry: Hinds voting 'debunked', McDaniel set to talk Wednesday
Hinds County GOP Chairman Pete Perry on Tuesday said only 300 to 350 questionable votes were found as the Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran campaigns scoured records of more than 25,000 votes cast in the county in their primary runoff. Perry said he believes McDaniel's claims of 1,500 or more potentially illegal votes -- and voter fraud -- in Hinds County has been "debunked." McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch in a statement on Tuesday said: "We hope the fact Pete Perry was paid $60,000 ...to move Democrat votes in Hinds County had nothing to do with the fraud he is alleged to have engaged in, but we're glad Pete has taken a sudden interest in the integrity of the election..."
 
Judge gives McDaniel camp favorable ruling for access to Jackson County poll books
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Krebs ordered Jackson County Circuit Clerk Joe Martin to allow Chris McDaniel campaign supporters access to poll books from the June 3 and June 24 Republican U.S. Senate elections during an writ of mandamus emergency hearing this morning. State Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula argued the case for McDaniel, one of his close friends and political allies. McDaniel's campaign is trying to gather information on voting "irregularities" across the state to challenge his June 24 runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran. The main issue is whether the election poll books are public record, subject to a public record request, or part of the voting record.
 
Mississippi Supreme Court seeks more info from McDaniel
The Mississippi Supreme Court is seeking more information about state Sen. Chris McDaniel's request for voting records as he prepares a possible challenge of his loss to Sen. Thad Cochran in a Republican primary runoff. Three justices Tuesday asked McDaniel to tell them what laws address the disclosure of voters' personal information. They're also asking Attorney General Jim Hood and Harrison County Circuit Clerk Gayle Parker to respond to McDaniel's request for voting records that include birthdates.
 
Club for Growth President: McDaniel Needs 'Clear' Evidence in Mississippi
The Club for Growth was Chris McDaniel's largest financial backer in his Mississippi Republican primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran, but Club President Chris Chocola said Mr. McDaniel needs to provide some "clear" evidence to continue contesting his defeat in the June 24 runoff. "McDaniel is going to have to make a decision at some point in how far he pursues this," Mr. Chocola said Tuesday in a discussion with Wall Street Journal reporters and editors. "If there's clearly evidence of wrongdoing, that there were ballot integrity issues I suppose it would be appropriate for him to pursue those, but it would have to be clear. I don't know that they're clear at this point."
 
McDaniel's Mississippi Senate challenge draws new critics
Cracks continued to appear in Chris McDaniel's case for continuing to challenge Sen. Thad Cochran's Mississippi GOP primary runoff win on Tuesday, even as the state senator pursued new legal avenues to obtain access to election results. On Thursday of last week, McDaniel filed suit against the Rankin County Circuit Clerk, alleging she was illegally barring access to the county's poll books. But a new poll Tuesday showed a majority of Mississippians believe Cochran won the June 24 primary fair and square, and McDaniel should concede.
 
Democrats may lose Hope in Arkansas despite Clinton legacy
Much has changed since Bill Clinton grew up in the sleepy Arkansas town of Hope. The former Clinton home is now a well-appointed museum. The old two-lane road in front grew into a bustling artery leading to a Wal-Mart. Across the street sits a taco truck, whose owner, immigrant Elvia Bello, sells her famous tamales to the small but growing Latino population in the once-segregated community. But perhaps the biggest change of all in a state that once had reliably elected Democrats is the sandwich-board sign on a corner with hand-painted letters announcing: "Tea Party Meeting 4th Thursday 7 p.m." This busy intersection near the old Clinton homestead reflects a state at a crossroads. Far from the one that gave the nation its 42nd president, Arkansas has caught up with the political shift of its Southern neighbors. Now, even a place called Hope is no longer a Democratic stronghold, but an increasingly Republican one.
 
Tennessee leaders downplay union debate at VW plant
Tennessee leaders downplayed the often public wrangling over organized labor's role at Volkswagen's Chattanooga factory on Tuesday, focusing on the company's recent announcement that it would add a new line there to produce a seven-passenger SUV. Volkswagen on Monday announced the expansion, which is expected to cost $600 million and add about 2,000 new factory jobs at the Chattanooga site. About 2,400 employees work at the factory now, making the Passat midsize car. The company also plans to add a research and development facility, employing about 200 engineers. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said the terms of the deal came together about five weeks ago, prior to what UAW leaders have called a "consensus" with Volkswagen.
 
Volkswagen hints at more growth for Chattanooga plant
As state and local officials celebrated Volkswagen's decision to expand the company's Chattanooga plant to assemble a new SUV, officials of the German automaker suggested that there's more news ahead. During a homespun ceremony at the Hunter Museum downtown Tuesday afternoon, where VW officials originally announced exactly six years ago plans to build its U.S. plant here, Volkswagen's top U.S. executive said the facility is under consideration to get even more vehicles. The plant, which opened in 2011, now makes only the Passat sedan.
 
Reports reveal safety violations at many bioterror labs
Recent glaring safety lapses involving anthrax, smallpox and a dangerous strain of bird flu are the latest violations at a half-dozen laboratories run by federal health agencies, 11 labs run by universities and eight more operated by state, local or private entities, according to government reports stamped "restricted" obtained by USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act. The reports by the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cited inadequate security procedures, lax inventory records for germs that could be used as bioterror agents and training concerns. Auditors warned in reports issued from 2006 to 2009 that such issues could have compromised the labs' abilities "to safeguard select agents from accidental or intentional loss and to ensure the safety of individuals who worked with select agents."
 
College of Liberal Arts at UM searches for new dean
The University of Mississippi has begun a national search for a new dean of the College of Liberal Arts after former Dean Glenn Hopkins retired in June. Richard Forgette has taken on the role of interim dean as the Office of the Provost prepares its search for a new dean. University Director of Public Relations Danny Blanton said finding a replacement dean is going to be the main priority for the university for the upcoming months. "The focus right now is going to be on making sure that we find the right person," Blanton said.
 
Southern Miss breaks ground for new nursing school
The University of Southern Mississippi just started the ground breaking process for its new nursing school. Dr. Katherine Nugent, dean of the College of Nursing, says she's excited about what the future has in store for the nursing program and the new building. "It is a feeling of pride," Nugent said. The new nursing school is set for completion in about two years, and it is located near the Theatre and Dance Building.
 
Lowndes supervisors agree to provide $10M for EMCC's 'Communiversity'
Lowndes County supervisors have agreed to a new three-year contract with the Golden Triangle Development LINK to represent the county's industrial development interests. They also agreed to commit $10 million toward a new workforce training facility for East Mississippi Community College. The county will pay $666,666 a year for 15 years in debt financing. EMCC incurs the debt and the county helps pay it off. LINK consultant Malcolm Portera, EMCC Vice President for Workforce Training Raj Shaunak and LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins were present to request funding for Communiversity during Tuesday's supervisors meeting. They asked for and received support from Clay County supervisors last week to commit $1 million over 15 years. They will go to Oktibbeha County supervisors next week to ask them for a $2.5 million commitment as well as a new three-year contract.
 
U. of South Carolina's new business school has 'wow factor'
Audrey Korsgaard beamed over her office in the University of South Carolina's new, ultra-green Darla Moore School of Business building on Tuesday. Outside her office, the building's open-floor design allows her to mingle. "I meet people I didn't know in the faculty -- every day," said Korsgaard, a 23-year USC veteran who was among the first faculty members to move into the new building a week ago. "The building has a big 'wow' factor." A peek inside the $106.5 million building, three weeks before its full occupancy and five weeks before students start arriving, reveals how USC is trying to modernize its buildings in a race for top students and faculty.
 
Pair of U. of Florida studies looked at relationship between pain relievers and heart attack
A common, over-the-counter pain medication increases the risk of heart attack and stroke for some women, University of Florida researchers say. A study into the cardiovascular effects of nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs -- also known as NSAIDs -- concluded that regular use of naproxen, an active ingredient in multiple prescription drugs and the over-the-counter drug Aleve, increased the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in postmenopausal women by 10 percent. "It is counter to the perception of the medical community because there was a thought that when it came to NSAIDs, naproxen was a safer agent," said Dr. Anthony Bavry, a UF cardiologist and the study's lead author. "We didn't find that."
 
UGA professor to host new 'WxGeeks' show on Weather Channel
University of Georgia professor Marshall Shepherd, already a star in the world of weather and climate, is now going to be a TV star. Shepherd is the expert host of a new Weather Channel show called "WxGeeks," for Weather Geeks. "I can geek out on the weather anytime, but now we're going to do it on national TV," said Shepherd Tuesday in a Weather Channel teleconference. The show, which debuts Sunday, is designed to appeal to people who are seriously into weather. Sunday's first show will be about the controversial practice of storm chasing, and will feature one of the country's best-known storm chasers, Charles Doswell.
 
U. of Missouri names new dean for medical school
Patrice "Patrick" Delafontaine, chief of cardiology at Tulane University in New Orleans, has been named dean of the University of Missouri School of Medicine effective Dec. 1. The announcement comes more than two years after the college's former dean, Robert Churchill, resigned as the school faced a federal fraud investigation. An internal investigation found two of the school's radiologists committed billing fraud. A federal investigation and accompanying lawsuit are still in progress. Tulane, like MU, is a member of the American Association of Universities. MU has placed an increased focus on research-based projects and hiring to improve its AAU rank.
 
UL-Lafayette responds to bomb threat with campus evacuation order
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has responded to a bomb threat by issuing a campus evacuation order, according to the university's Twitter account. Lafayette Police Sgt. Kyle Soirez said officers found "a suspicious device" in Girard Park after receiving a bomb threat early Wednesday morning. The bomb squad is currently at the park, which is part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus. Lines were busy when calls were made to the campus, but more information was available on the university's Facebook account.
 
U. of Texas can use race as factor in admission, court rules
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the partial use of race as a factor in admissions at the University of Texas, ruling that the school's use of race as part of a holistic review process was essential for the university to achieve a diverse student body. At issue was whether the University of Texas at Austin was relying too heavily on race as a factor in who is admitted to each freshman class. Abigail Fisher, a white student who applied for admission but was rejected in 2008, filed a lawsuit charging that less qualified minority students were admitted in her place because of their race or ethnicity. A federal judge and an appeals court panel sided with the university.
 
U. of California System Weighs Bias Against Non-U.S. Researchers
Officials at the University of California system are reconsidering a policy that prevents the university from discriminating against non-American researchers. UC traditionally rejects money from research sponsors -- including the federal government -- that want all researchers assigned to a project to be American citizens or permanent United States residents. Some exceptions have been made for classified research and federal programs meant to provide work force training to young American scientists. That could change. System officials are now in preliminary discussions about allowing sponsors to dictate broader discrimination against non-American researchers. As federal research dollars dry up and federal authorities fret about work that could harm national security, UC officials have begun to rethink their nondiscrimination policy.


SPORTS
 
Mississippi State's Stricklin talks TV, football with Rotary Club
The launching of the SEC Network is one month away and the new television opportunity for Southeastern Conference sports seems to be generating more and more interest. Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin addressed the subject at Monday's Rotary Club meeting at the Starkville Country Club. The SEC Network will also be a hot topic of conversation this week during SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. Football is always on the minds of the Rotarians, but on Monday, they wanted to know exactly where they will be able to watch games on television this fall. Although Stricklin didn't have all of the answers, he said there is one specific thing the public can do if they want to make sure they have the SEC Network. "The number one thing for people to do is if their carrier doesn't carry it is to make sure they let them know they want to get it," Stricklin said. (Subscriber-only content.)
 
Mississippi State, Mullen lay out their bold plans
Dan Mullen was not bashful. He first took aim at in-state rival Ole Miss at Tuesday's SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama. "By going to four-straight bowl games, by winning four out of five Egg Bowls within the state, we've built a solid foundation for our future," Mullen said. Seconds later, he made sure the shot landed. "We're opening our new ...expanded stadium," he said. "We'll have the largest stadium in the state." But Mullen and Mississippi State looked beyond just prodding their in-state rival.
 
Wild, wild West: Bulldogs' Mullen trying to chart course for Atlanta
Mississippi State will not be favored to win the SEC Western Division this season. But, as Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen quickly pointed out Tuesday at SEC Media Days, neither was Auburn a year ago. The Tigers were picked fifth in the division but won the SEC Championship and came within 13 seconds of winning a national championship in 2013. Mullen hopes MSU is on the cusp of a similar rise through the ranks this fall. "Our expectations are to find a way to get to Atlanta," Mullen said.
 
Mississippi State eyes jump in SEC standings
Mississippi State has been a reasonably successful program during coach Dan Mullen's five-year tenure, advancing to four straight bowl games. Now the Bulldogs have a roster that looks as if it can attain even more. Mississippi State returns a veteran defense and one of the league's few experienced quarterbacks. Dak Prescott threw for 1,940 yards and 10 touchdowns -- and also rushed for 13 touchdowns -- after becoming the starter early last season. The charismatic junior is now the unquestioned leader of the Bulldogs' offense.
 
Chris Jones makes big impression in Starkville
For Chris Jones, a bumpy recruiting road stabilized rather quickly once it ended in Starkville. Maybe the country's hottest topic leading up to Mississippi State's 2013 recruiting class, Jones emphatically put all the drama behind him as soon as the first collegiate ball of his career kicked off. "Chris Jones, he's a freak," Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney said Tuesday from SEC Media Days. "He's a big human. He's fast. He's athletic. He's very smart."
 
Mullen's gamble on McKinney pays off
Benardrick McKinney is another example of Dan Mullen finding a diamond in the rough in a rural Mississippi town. Mississippi State was the only school to offer the former Rosa Fort High School quarterback and has developed McKinney into one of the top linebacker talents in the country. "He plays with an unbelievable chip on his shoulder," Mullen said. "I think he was a two-star recruit out of high school and wasn't really recruited at all. We saw that this guy had a tremendous ability and growth potential. He plays with that chip of wanting to prove everybody wrong." McKinney has packed on 37-pounds of muscle onto his 6-foot-5 frame during his four years in Starkville.
 
Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney shows maturation in third year
Benardrick McKinney sat at the podium in the front right corner of the main media room last year. It was the sophomore's first taste of SEC Media Days. As a junior the Mississippi State linebacker returned here. He sat in the back left corner. His position changed and so did he. Last year, McKinney answered questions with a couple of words. He spoke quietly and mumbled at times. The spotlight focused McKinney's 102 tackles as a freshman, yet he tried to avoid the attention that came from those numbers. This year McKinney sat straight up. He spoke clearly and answered questions thoroughly. MSU wanted him to lead last year. He's ready this year.
 
Dak Prescott improved his passing
SEC Media Days acted as the Who's Who of college football last year. But Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron and Jadeveon Clowney are all in the NFL. This year's event lacked star power. But the buzz of Media Days heightened Tuesday. A hoard of media surrounded Mississippi State's quarterback Dak Prescott. He's no McCarron or Manziel, but he's perhaps a star in the making. The way Prescott ended last season (comeback win vs. Ole Miss, five touchdowns in the Liberty Bowl) it felt like the quarterback is a polished product heading into the 2014 season.
 
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott using last-second loss to Auburn as motivation
Despite the way it ended, Dak Prescott still looks back on his first road start in the Southeastern Conference with pride. While Nick Marshall's 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds remaining to send Auburn past Prescott's Mississippi State, 24-20, on Sept. 14 was an excruciating experience, it was also one the Bulldogs' junior signal-caller is grateful to have had. "A loss sometimes can give you confidence going into the season," Prescott said Tuesday during the second day of SEC Media Days in Hoover, "so when we look back on that, we know what we can do and what we should have done and what can happen this year if we make the plays that we need to."
 
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott ready for action in 2014
Quarerback Dak Prescott watched his Mississippi State team give Alabama fits last November. He watched the Bulldogs force four turnovers, he watched them hang tough, and as 24-point underdogs, they trailed by just three in the third quarter and had possession down by 10 in the fourth. For Prescott, watching was precisely the problem. That's all he could do as Alabama slowly peeled away a 20-7 win in Starkville, Miss. Seven months later, missing such a golden opportunity because of injury has Prescott eyeing a shot at the Crimson Tide in 2014. "Yea, definitely," Prescott said Tuesday when asked about the difficulty of missing last year's game.
 
Mississippi State seeks 'a way to get to Atlanta'
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said a three-game winning streak at the end of last season and a large contingent of returning starters give the team considerable momentum entering this season. "I think we have built a solid foundation for our program, upon which we want to build a championship," Mullen said Tuesday at SEC Football Media Days. Officially, his team returns 17 starters -- eight on offense and nine on defense. But Mullen said 30 players are back who started at least one game at some point last season, 15 on each side of the ball. Getting to Atlanta, of course, would require winning the powerful SEC West, which Mullen called "the most competitive conference in college football."
 
Mississippi State's goal: Finish in top half of West
The 2014 season will be all about expectations for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs return 30 players who started games last season, and they ended the year on a three-game winning streak. Mississippi State has appeared in four straight bowl games and won four of five against rival Ole Miss under the direction of coach Dan Mullen. But the Bulldogs are in search of bigger things in his sixth season.
 
Russell, other former college players put on youth camp
Young football players might look up to guys like Tyler Russell in terms of athletic ability. But football how-tos weren't the only things 10-year-old Dexter Spencer took away from Russell's football skills camp Saturday in Philadelphia. "We learned about how we're supposed to take care of our education, be good and don't get in trouble," Spencer said. Approximately 40 youth made their way to the Neshoba County Youth Football Tyler Russell Skills and Drills camp Saturday morning at Northside Park in Philadelphia. The camp featured Russell, former Meridian High School and Mississippi State quarterback, as well as former college players like Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee and former Ole Miss quarterback Michael Spurlock.
 
Golden Flake sponsorship of the Southeastern Conference has ended
Golden Flake is no longer an official sponsor of the NCAA's Southeastern Conference. Recent edits to Golden Flake's website reflect the change. As recently as January of this year, the SEC's blue and yellow logo was prominently displayed on the "Sponsorships" section of Golden Flake's website, archived versions of the website show. Today, the logo no longer appears. The SEC's relationship with Golden Flake goes back decades, as well. Both the conference and the snack food brand's parent company, Golden Enterprises, are headquartered in Birmingham.
 
Mullen: Spread offense a 'great fit' for Gators
The spread offense has returned to Florida, and the first offensive coordinator to run the modern-day version of that system in the SEC thinks going back to it is good move for the Gators. Dan Mullen unleashed the spread offense on the league with Urban Meyer in 2005 when they brought their innovative scheme from Utah to UF. Under Mullen's direction, the Gators finished 2007 and 2008 ranked in the top 15 nationally in total offense. He helped them win a pair of national championships before leaving to become the head coach at Mississippi State, where he's entering his sixth season.



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